PROVO — For a few weeks this summer, Jimmermania has returned to North America. It’s kidnapped 2011.
It can be found on national TV and has bounced through and over social media. It caused a ruckus inside Utah with BYU and Utah fans and has drawn travelers from as far away as China in group travel to Atlanta and now Baltimore.
Fredette scored 28 points and dished out seven assists, which included a 35-foot quick-trigger three to beat the first-quarter buzzer Sunday, as his team dominated a team consisting of former Ohio State stars, including former 2007 NBA No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden.
Afterward, Fredette’s teammate, former Notre Dame center and Utah Jazz member Jack Cooley, told ESPN2’s audience that Fredette is the best basketball player he’s ever played with.
Part of that was the buildup to the matchup between Team Fredette and the Scarlet and Gray team. It would feature Fredette being guarded by former Buckeye defensive ace Aaron Craft, nicknamed The Craftsman, The Poster Boy for Defense, Man of Steal, the Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2012 and NBA G-League two-time defensive player of the year who has played in Italy, Hungary and Monaco.
Craft got after Fredette. The Scarlet and Gray played double- and then triple-team defense on him. But Fredette simply dished off to Cooley and former BYU teammate Brandon Davies for easy buckets, and Team Fredette pulled away by halftime en route to a rout.
Fredette leads the TBT in scoring with a 32.8 point average. That includes a 41-point performance with all the Fredette trimmings: 30-footers, floaters in the lane, underhand scoops, pull-ups, mid-range shots and bullet passes.
Against Fort Wayne, Fredette scored his 41 points in 36 minutes, and brought down the house.
Fredette has also been showing off some new moves, mainly some accuracy on his floaters and mid-range shots. His crossover-dribble shot and spin moves to a drive have been deadly, and he’s shared the ball, keeping others engaged.
Sporting a light beard, Fredette has been emotionally charged, often barking at officials, questioning calls, elevating the passion of his teammates, who have agreed to share equally the $2 million prize if they win it all.
Yeah, but this is a tournament of NBA outsiders, some say. Well, true. But it is also competition with plenty of NBA experience, including Cooley and former Jazzman Jeremy Evans.
“Jimmer is a natural scorer and people love watching him play,” said former teammate Jackson Emery on Monday. “He’s done that wherever he’s been given an opportunity. Watching him, Brandon (Davies) and Charles (Abouo) brings back some great memories. I’m glad that people can see that Jimmer still has it.”
It all started with 64 teams and got whittled down to the Super Sixteen that boasted 33 players with NBA experience, according to TBT founder Jon Mugar. That included Oden, James Michael McAdoo, who won two titles with the Warriors, Donald Sloan, a starter for the Nets, and Ronnie Brewer, a first-round pick out of Arkansas who had a 13.7 average for the Jazz a decade ago.
Fredette’s performances got current BYU basketball radio voice Mark Durrant to proclaim on Twitter that if an NBA team really got serious about fitting Jimmer in the mix he’d be an NBA superstar. Ute fans on Twitter immediately disagreed and questioned Durrant’s praise.
Jimmer still has aspirations to play in the NBA, but he knows the clock is ticking and interest just hasn’t come from general managers and coaches. China is a long way from home, but he’s earning a reported $1.8 million salary for the Shanghai Sharks in the CBA’s short season.
There are several national media reporters following the TBT this summer, including Yahoo Sports college writer Jeff Eisenberg, who was familiar with Jimmer in 2011 and made comparisons of Fredette to Oklahoma’s first-round pick by Atlanta, Trae Young, who has spent time with Fredette working out in Colorado.
Fredette told Eisenberg his best advice for Young.
“I would tell him to control the things you can control,” said Fredette. “You can control your attitude, your work ethic and whether you are happy or not. If you control those things, you are going to be as successful as you can be.
“The NBA is about being the right fit at the right time with a coaching staff and players that believe in you and your skill set.”
The biggest takeaway from seeing Fredette in the TBT is his passion and joy for the game and that he is having tremendous fun. Also, he really is playing at the very top of this summer extravaganza. In fact, he is dominating the event, no question.
There are plenty of “experts” who’ve broken down Fredette’s game and the reasons why he has not stuck in the NBA when given six chances. You can review one of them here on YouTube (see 1:00 minute mark), part of an echo chamber.
Plenty of these folks strike a familiar chord with labels for him. But few, if any, deny that Jimmer is a tremendous scorer and gifted shooter. At the least, he is a beloved showman with a worldwide following. Many blame his defense, but plenty of NBA guards don’t play much defense for 20 seconds a possession. Perhaps in the NBA realm, nobody really wants to turn the keys of most every offensive possession over to Fredette, and that’s what he really needs to do his magic.
It is a role he’s played when he was the NCAA Player of the Year in 2011 at BYU, a formula he used to earn MVP honors of the Chinese Basketball League, and it is in full bloom as the best player and leading scorer in The Basketball Tournament this summer, where an ESPN.com reporter over the weekend declared: “Fredette is the Headliner.”
After Fredette keyed the win over the former Buckeyes on Sunday, a poster named Bexley Buckeye wrote on an Ohio State fan message board called Bucknuts:
“One thing about Jimmer Fredette. He made two shots which Wilt, Havlicek, Michael and Dennis Rodman could not have stopped. At the end of the first quarter he hit a step-back three over Lighty. With his momentum taking him to mid-court, swish. Then in the second, with Craft stuck to him like glue, Jimmer stopped at about 32' and nailed it. Perfect defense both times, but great shots. The other 90 some points came from turnovers and bad shots leading to run-outs, and poor defense on the perimeter by the bigs, and easy put-backs, but those two shots were fan-tastic.”
For those who want to see Team Fredette in the semifinals of the TBT in Baltimore, tune into ESPN at 7 p.m. MDT on Thursday.
Fredette is comfortable in his own skin. He knows when he’s worked his hardest, given his best, and he knows when he’s been judged correctly and incorrectly. This makes him a valuable commodity as a teammate and player.
Speaking to Eisenberg, Fredette became philosophical over the weekend.
“I wish I could have handled things a little better and played better when I got in there (NBA). And there’s really no one to blame for that but myself.
“At the same time, a lot of it is trying to find the right situation as well. I’m not sure I ever had that.”48 comments on this story
What Fredette has had the past few weeks is a chance, the right situation created exactly for his game, his hand on the rudder, being in control just like at BYU and China, where he once scored 52 and 73 points, respectively.
I don’t care so much about these debate points. What I do know is Fredette is a unicorn. He is a volume scorer and showman like Pete Maravich. He is one of the greatest scorers I’ve ever seen. I’ve witnessed Fredette do it against James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, and both had help defense.
This summer, controlling offensive sets, he’s delivered barrels of points as if on cue.
Situationally, of course.